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Contract Management Capacity Breakdown? An Analysis of U.S. Local Governments


  • M. Ernita Joaquin is assistant professor of public administration and policy at San Francisco State University. She earned her doctorate in political science from Northern Illinois University. Her research has appeared in journals such as American Review of Public Administration, Administration & Society, Public Performance and Management Review, and Public Integrity. She studies bureaucratic adaptation and learning and the issues of performance, capacity, and accountability in multisector governance. E-mail:

  • Thomas J. Greitens is assistant professor of public administration at Central Michigan University. His research focuses on the challenges of implementing public management ideals in government, from performance-driven metrics to privatization mandates to e-government transformations. His work has appeared in Administration & Society, Public Performance and Management Review, and several books on e-government and citizen participation. E-mail:


Research indicates that successful government contracting depends on sufficient internal management capacity. Numerous studies have examined the decision to contract out and its pitfalls, but few have tracked government contract management capacity. This study explores whether a change is observable in the capacity of U.S. local governments to engage in effective contracting from 1997 to 2007. The authors discuss whether this change represents a decline or degradation, and in which form and type of government it occurred. Using data from 537 local government units, the analysis reveals that some aspects of capacity have declined as local governments continue to contract out for highly complex services. The authors speculate on the reasons behind the findings and suggest capacity enhancement strategies.